As we embark on this 11-day journey through the “non-academic/learning to learn” skills all children need, detailing the skill of staying on topic, I just want to remind you that these shouldn’t be complicated. Don’t get overwhelmed, just do what you can. And – if you have questions, make sure to reach out! I’m ready and available to support you during this unexpected break from school!
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Skill #3: Staying On Topic
This skill is such an important skill for students to be successful in both social settings and classroom settings. It is not always an easy skill to change, but it is a skill that can be worked on perfectly at home. Staying on-topic is one of those skills that is critical for lifelong success. Not only is it important for building real and meaningful social connections, but it is also a critical skill for success in the workplace and beyond. Remember, defining the behavior (exactly the way you want them to do it) is so important. It may seem obvious to you, but don’t assume your child knows what your expectations are. An example of defining what staying on-topic looks like is:
- Listen to what the other person is saying
- Make a comment or ask a question that is on the same topic that the other person said
- Wait for the other person to respond
Of course, this is just an example – you can define it any way you want!
Hint for teachers: If there is a way that you want parents to practice staying on-topic, let them know!
How to Practice Staying On Topic
- Have your child pick a topic and set a timer and you both have to stay on that topic.
- YOU pick the topic and set a timer and you both have to stay on that topic
- Play a game and make one of the rules that the only conversation can be about the game
- Plan a cooking activity and only talk about food/cooking
- Go for a walk or a ride and only talk about what you see as you walk
- Watch and movie and any comments have to be about the movie
- Play a video game together and afterward, set a timer and talk about the game.
- Play the question game; you think of a word and your child can ask questions to guess the word.
- Find a video clip where two (or more) people are talking and you and your child watch it together and press the “buzzer” any time you see them go off-topic.
- Conversation Freeze Tag” Have a conversation with other people in the home and have your child say “freeze” any time they notice people going off-topic.
Remember: This can and should be fun and can be done throughout the day!!!
Reinforce the Skill of Staying On Topic
Setting up a simple reinforcement around this particular skill can be very simple.
Step 1: Define the behavior clearly. Make sure your child knows exactly what you want Staying On-Topic looks like
Step 2: Decide when you want to work on the skill. There is no right amount. Ultimately, your goal should be to make this time doable for you and your child. (you can do it one time a day or more. Whatever works for your family!
Step 3: Decide what kind of reinforcement you want to use and how often they receive it. For example;
- Have a jar in the house with on-topic written on it
- Put a token (ex: marble, cotton ball, skittle) in the jar every time you see your child staying on-topic
- Every time you add a token to the jar, tell them what they are earning it for (ex: “awesome job staying on topic”, “You asked a question that was on-topic to what I said”)
- When your child fills the jar, they can earn a treat or preferred activity.
Step 4: Discuss what the plan is with your child and then stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to reinforcing behavior!
Do what you can, with what you have where you are…Theodore Roosevelt
Find More Resources
No matter what your goals are for this time, make sure to check out the other resources I offer for parents and teachers. Then, come back tomorrow and let’s talk about the next skill all children need to know!